US AML watchdog wants info on all international crypto transactions over $250

The proposed change would cut down FinCEN’s longstanding $3,000 threshold.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Federal Reserve are looking to get more information on smaller transactions than ever before. 

According to a notice of proposed rulemaking published on Friday, the agencies want to lower the $3,000 threshold established in 1995 to $250 for international transactions, meaning that financial institutions would need to exchange client information alongside all transactions greater than $250 that begin or end outside of the United States. Which is to say, the Travel Rule, as it is known, would apply to quite small amounts of money changing hands.

The proposed change specifically calls out “convertible virtual currencies,” saying that they would also fall into the category of money for the purposes of this rule. 

The information that financial institutions need to exchange under the travel rule is:

“(a) name and address of the originator or transmittor; (b) the amount of the payment or transmittal order; (c) the execution date of the payment or transmittal order; (d) any payment instructions received from the originator or transmittor with the payment or transmittal order; and (e) the identity of the beneficiary’s bank or recipient’s financial institution.”

Which is to say, quite a lot of personal information that a crypto exchange would then need to store alongside a user’s account, posing a major data security threat. Moreover, implicit in this change is a mandate that financial institutions know the geographic origin of every transaction over the $250 threshold. 

The Financial Action Task Force is working to apply a similar rule all around the globe, which has proven highly controversial within the crypto world. The mandate to collect and exchange customer information seems diametrically opposed to the “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that the whitepaper for Bitcoin presented. 

For now, the update to the Travel Rule remains just a proposal. FinCEN and the Fed are inviting public comment from all concerned over the next 30 days. 

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